The Dance tweet
Our view: Criticism of Balto. Co. superintendent reaches a new height of absurdity
On election night, a former Montgomery County schools superintendent posted a message on social media suggesting educators show Muslim, black, Latino, Jewish, disabled “or just non-white” students “that you love them and will protect them!” Dallas Dance, the current superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools, re-tweeted that message on his Twitter account Wednesday morning. And then a whole lot of stupidity broke out. Some parents became upset because the original tweet from Joshua P. Starr didn’t specifically mention white students. They posted their complaints on social media. And chief among them was a perception that Mr. Dance is more inclined to support minority students than he is white students.
That’s just silly on multiple levels. Showing extra compassion for Muslim, black, Latino and other minorities is hardly a stretch, given much of what Donald Trump said during the campaign and — irony alert — posted on Twitter. That Mr. Starr’s original post didn’t offer a full laundry list of the potentially discouraged (indeed, nearly two-thirds of Maryland voters might have qualified) says more about the medium and its 140-character limit than the message.
All of which could easily be dismissed as the usual social media clutter, but then the politicians jumped in. Republican state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling said the tweet “causes division” because of the “non-white” language. Del. Joe Cluster said he would ask for Mr. Dance’s resignation. Ann Miller, the county school board’s resident bomb-thrower, wrote a letter accusing the superintendent of inappropriate behavior and “creating an environment of fear where there is no evidence it is warranted.”
Apparently, Ms. Miller doesn’t get around much, so, for her benefit, we would respectfully point her to the more than 200 incidents of hateful intimidation, vandalism and harassment since the election compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as of last Friday. The leader so far? Anti-black messages and behavior, followed by those directed at immigrants. (AntiTrump content also made the list but well behind anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT incidents).
And while it’s entirely possible a lot of white students felt discouraged by the election results, nothing in the tweet or re-tweet suggests they shouldn’t be shown compassion as well.
But to demonstrate that there’s always a place for absurdity to become more absurd, now comes Del. Pat “black youth mobs in the Inner Harbor” McDonough showing his customary poor judgment and nativist tendencies by calling for an ethics investigation into Mr. Dance’s re-tweet. “Would Superintendent Dance ask for special treatment for white students if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency after referring to some of their parents as ‘irredeemable deplorables?’” the delegate asked in a recent statement.
First, Mr. Dance didn’t ask for “special treatment,” only for teachers to be mindful of vulnerable kids. Second, Ms. Clinton didn’t win, and third, she said half of Trump supporters were “deplorables” and then quickly recanted, calling it “grossly generalistic.” Meanwhile, those she described as deplorable — the racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic — seem to be rejoicing in the election results. They even got one of their own, Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon, appointed as a White House adviser in a triumph for anti-Semitism.
Here’s a Twitter-sized and easily digestible thought for Mr. McDonough and others who want to construe a message of compassion as one of divisiveness: Stop it. Just stop it. Maryland rejected your brand of hateful politics last week. Not only did Mr. Trump only garner about 35 percent of the votes, but Mr. McDonough got an even smaller share in his effort to unseat Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger in the 2nd Congressional District. Maryland has no shortage of families with rightfully upset kids.
Mr. Dance has made his share of genuinely controversial decisions during his tenure. Among the more recent was a new grading policy, recently modified, that clearly could have been better handled. But attacking him for failing to explicitly seek greater attention for white students? Perhaps “idiocy” is the kindest description of such criticism. Given that Mr. Dance is African-American and his most vocal critics in this case are white, the accusation of racial insensitivity (and by people who customarily mock “political correctness”) is particularly galling.